NHC downgrades Florence to still risky Category 3 hurricane

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At the White House, President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way of Florence.

According to Wednesday morning's update from the National Hurricane Center, Florence could park off the coast of the Carolinas on Friday, bringing damaging winds and even extreme storm surges to coastal areas.

As of Tuesday, about 1.7 million people in North and SC and Virginia were under warnings to evacuate the coast, and hurricane watches and warnings extended across an area with about 5.4 million residents.

Beach communities in North and SC emptied out on Wednesday as Hurricane Florence threatened to unleash pounding surf and potentially deadly flooding as the most powerful storm to make a direct hit on the states in decades.

If Florence hits North Carolina as a Category 4 storm, it will be the strongest storm to make landfall in the state since Hurricane Hazel in 1954. With Hurricane Florence set to wallop the area as a Category 4 hurricane, there are fears the ponds could overflow or even collapse amid extremely heavy rain, sending vast amounts of manure from thousands of farms into rivers and contaminating groundwater.

"Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles (110 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km)".

"I'm not approaching Florence from fear or panic", said Brad Corpening, 35, who planned to ride out the storm in his boarded-up delicatessen in Wilmington.

"This is not going to be a glancing blow", warned Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As of 2 p.m., the storm was centered 435 miles (700 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving at 16 mph (26 kph). "It's a big one", he said.

More than a million people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the arrival of Florence, which boasts sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.

"It's been really nice", Nicole Roland said. "If we try to leave, we'll just get stuck in the rain".

"This rainfall would produce catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding", the hurricane center says.

Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.

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